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Crow Wing Energized: Stop the silence surrounding mental illnesses

A local effort to stop the silence and the stigma related to mental illness is part of a campaign called Make It OK and is designed to encourage people to talk more openly about mental illnesses and ask for help. Photo illustration

The 2017 Crow Wing County Health Survey found that more than 1 in 4 (28.2 percent) adults in Crow Wing County have a mental illness.

Mental illnesses are as common as silver cars, as people with brown eyes and more common than being left-handed. Despite being one of the most common illnesses, there is still a stigma attached to mental illnesses and many people struggle with talking about them.

Mental health is just as important as our physical health, which is why we are part of a local

effort to stop the silence and the stigma. The effort is part of a campaign called Make It OK,

and is designed to encourage people to talk more openly about mental illnesses and ask for

help.

It's OK to have a mental illness—many of us do. One in four Americans from every walk of life

experience a mental illness. Most people live with the symptoms of a mental illness for 10 years

before seeking treatment, largely due to the stigma. The sooner people get treatment, the

greater their chances of recovery. It's OK because it is a medical condition — not a character

flaw. Mental illnesses are biological conditions that can be treated, just like cancer and diabetes.

They cannot be overcome through "will power" and are not related to a person's character or

intelligence. It's OK because it's treatable — life can get better.

The best treatments for serious mental illnesses today are highly effective. In fact, between 70 —

90 percent of people's symptoms are reduced and feel better when following individualized

treatment plans. Together, we can Make It OK. Together, we can all work to reduce the stigma.

Tips for talking

Stop the silence—If someone discloses that they have a mental illness, they are opening up to you in a big way. Ask questions, show concern, but keep the awkward silence at bay.

Be nice—It sounds simple enough, but try to say the right things with openness, warmth and caring.

Listen—The fact that you are there can make a world of difference, so in your conversation, try to err more on the side of listening.

Keep in contact—Offer availability by phone, text, email, or time to meet up. Just be there.

Don't ignore it— Don't be afraid to ask about the well-being of another if you think they might be hurting. Trust your senses.

Offer help—Everyone is different. They may want very specific help or no help at all. Either way, you can always ask and be open to the answer.

Keep the conversation moving—It's OK to talk about other things to keep silent lulls out of conversation; as long as they know you're completely open to revisiting the topic later.

Tell your friends about MakeItOk.org.

Become a Make it OK trainer

Crow Wing Energized, in partnership with Crow Wing County and Essentia Health, is hosting a Make It OK ambassador training opportunity.

This train-the-trainer opportunity will prepare participants to deliver Make It OK training to the local community.

Attendees who decide to become a Make It OK Ambassador and present to community groups will be provided with the necessary tools and resources.

10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Friday, Aug. 10—lunch provided at Essentia Health-St. Joseph's Medical Center, Brainerd

Training is free, but registration is required. For more information, go to https://bit.ly/2KwfAyF

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